this is a question we get asked a lot at the shop, and to be honest - it's a fantastic question! we're glad you asked ☺️
depending on how much time our customers have, we give them a short or long answer to their question. below you can read our very detailed reply that our very curious customers receive.
when working with artisanal, small batch production and sourcing from remote & often underserved areas, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
we can neither expect fast paced production timelines, nor can we rely on typical international supply chains. to give you an example: we once experienced a 6 week delay in transport of our tanzanian rugs, because the village of the women’s cooperative was flooded by rains so heavy that landslides blocked the only paved road to the larger city two hours away.
this means our work at sister*hood requires a high level of flexibility and continuous dedication to create a respectful business relationship that matches our partners’ needs and operating style.
the guiding principle.
at sister*hood we strongly believe in the approach of “trade, not aid”. this is our guiding principle for building business relationships with socially conscious businesses, where we see eye-to-eye and engage in mutually beneficial transactions.
the local setup.
our artisan partners operate in various ways: some are dedicated social enterprises, others are set up as a NGOs or non-profits, whilst others are a well-managed artisan collective or cooperatives led by a chair woman. currently, we stock mainly interior pieces from the southern american and african continent - colombia, peru, morocco and ghana producing some of our best sellers. however, we have not defined a geographic scope for our product sourcing and we are constantly looking for new additions. for example, a few particularly unique pieces were sourced from india or syria.
the level of professionalism.
the level of professionalism from our artisan partners covers a wide spectrum: the majority of artisan partners have established some sort of an online presence (website or social media) where they can share their products. a few businesses boast an impressive website with a sleek design, helpful search functions and high quality product photography with an online shop, that allows us to place orders. some of these social enterprises like womencraft have also worked with/received funding from incredible socially conscious initiatives such as Build A Nest or MADE 51, a program by UNHCR.
still, the reality is also that we often communicate on whatsapp, sending hundreds of blurry product photos back and forth, accompanied by short sentences that were awkwardly translated on google. as a minimum requirement of professionalism, we always need a contact person that can read and write (not a given in countries with extremely high illiteracy) and we need the business to be officially registered with a tax number - otherwise we’ll get into big trouble with the austrian customs office or tax authority. as a professional company licensed in austria, we cannot simply buy from curb side markets and pack it in our suitcase 😉
the degree of involvement.
most of the time, our team orders unique pieces from our partners, where every single item is carefully chosen. since our artisan partners carry intergenerational knowledge of their handicraft & techniques, we trust them completely in terms of product design. after all, sister*hood is here to showcase their work, their product, their craft. the artisans have honed their skill, developed a unique style and have an authentic understanding of colors and patterns.
more recently, however, we have also started designing a few pieces with our young and dynamic team at sister*hood. this new development is motivated by us wanting to work with local social enterprises from austria but we struggled to find interior products that matched our aesthetic vision. so with our growing sister*hood team, we are currently piloting our first ideas with some vienna-based businesses. and finally, our customers can also get involved and customize their own designs. the beauty of working directly with artisans is that any customizations can be turned into reality!
we would love to highlight our colombian partner zuahaza.
at this point, we would encourage you to visit the website of our sisters from zuahaza.
they are a highly supportive partner, who we have zoom catch-ups with, share marketing ideas and plan instagram initiatives with. this brand does not only have a beautiful & ethical approach to textile design but they also have an incredible website filled to the brim with behind-the-scenes photos. they introduce the artisan weavers, the materials & the techniques. have a look!!